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ENVIRONMENT

Venice dodges Unesco ‘endangered’ listing after placing new limit on cruise ships

Venice has avoided being named a world heritage site in danger by UNESCO on Thursday after Italy moved to ban large cruise ships from sailing into the city centre.

Venice dodges Unesco 'endangered' listing after placing new limit on cruise ships
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The city has been on UNESCO’s heritage list since 1987, but the UN body warned last month of the need for “more sustainable tourism management”, recommending that Venice be added to its endangered list.

The World Heritage Committee meeting in Fuzhou, China, cited Italy’s recent ban and gave Italian authorities until next December to report back on efforts to preserve the city’s ecosystem and heritage.

ANALYSIS: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from the lagoon at last?

Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini welcomed the decision, but said “attention on Venice must remain high”, underlying the need to identify a “sustainable development path”.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed “great satisfaction” at the decision.

For years, campaigners have been calling for an end to cruise ships sailing past St Mark’s Square.

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

They say the giant floating hotels cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

But many Venice residents, environmental campaigners and tourism experts have warned that the move would not be as beneficial as it appeared – and could in fact make existing problems worse .

“Yes, it is true that from August 1st cruise ships will no longer pass in front of Saint Mark’s,” stated Venezia Autentica, a group promoting sustainable tourism businesses in Venice.

“However, cruise ships will still enter the Venetian lagoon through the “back door”, hidden from plain sight,” it says. 

“They will reach Venice through an existing channel that will be further enlarged to accommodate those ships and will have devastating repercussions on the local environment.”

READ ALSO: ‘The myth of Venice’: How the Venetian brand helps the city survive

According to the government’s ban, the largest ships will be banned from entering the Basin of San Marco, the Canal of San Marco and the Giudecca Canal as of August 1st.

They will be diverted to the industrial port of Marghera, whereas smaller cruise ships, holding about 200 passengers, can continue to reach the heart of the city.

Unesco’s Director General described the move as “very good news and an important step that significantly contributes to the safeguarding of this unique heritage site.”

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ENVIRONMENT

Sweden Democrat slammed for denying climate crisis in parliament

The new Sweden Democrat MP Elsa Widding has been attacked as "shameful" and "deplorable", for denying the climate crisis in her maiden speech in the country's parliament.

Sweden Democrat slammed for denying climate crisis in parliament

In her speech, Widding, a civil engineer educated at Chalmers University of Technology, said that a warming planet would have advantages as well as disadvantages, and that there was no clear scientific backing for the climate crisis. 

“I believe that there is a lack of scientific evidence for saying that we find ourselves in a climate crisis,” she said. “The last time that was the case was in the 1960s when summers either stopped or became so short that we couldn’t produce a harvest.” 

She claimed that every piece of action Sweden is taking to combat climate change is simply “gesture politics”, and that even if Sweden cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero, it would only shave 0.0027˚C from global temperatures. She called for an end to the “religion” of climate policy and campaigning. 

Markus Selin, an MP for the Social Democrats called Widding’s statement “deplorable” and said he was “ashamed” to hear it. 

“Just 24 hours ago we stood and listened to Ulf Kristersson here in the parliament’s chamber talk far and wide about climate efforts and the Paris Agreement, and now we are hear 24 hours later listening to the biggest party backing his government chirping up and saying we should drop all the work to get our planet out of the dirt.” 

Annie Lööf, leader of the Centre Party, called Widding’s statement “embarrassing”. 

“That the Sweden Democrats are climate change deniers is nothing new,” she said, saying that it was the Moderates, Christian Democrats, and Liberals who were really to blame for giving the party real political power. 

“Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals – how could you let the party of climate deniers get all the way into the government offices?”

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